So You Want to Talk About Race

So You Want to Talk About Race

Ijeoma Oluo

Our police forces were born from Night Patrols, who had the principal task of controlling black and Native American populations in New England, and Slave Patrols, who had the principal task of catching escaped black slaves and sending them back to slave masters. 8 After the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, catching and reenslaving black people became the job of Night Patrols as well, and that job was continued on after the Night Patrols were turned into the country’s first police forces. Our early American police forces existed not only to combat crime, but also to return black Americans to slavery and control and intimidate free black populations. Police were rightfully feared and loathed by black Americans in the North and South. In the brutal and bloody horror of the post-Reconstruction South, local police sometimes joined in on the terrorizing of black communities that left thousands of black Americans dead. 9 In the South, through the Jim Crow era and the civil rights movement, it was well known locally that many police officers were also members of the Ku Klux Klan. Through much of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, American police forces were one of the greatest threats to the safety of black Americans. Our police force was not created to serve black Americans; it was created to police black Americans and serve white Americans.

Link · 1139